During this section I had a lot of time to think and was drawing inspiration from many sources. I could hear my mom saying, "you go girl", my BFF telling me "si, se puede", Monica cheering me on with "you are a champion, and Chris' facebook message of "keep moving forward". Keep moving forward became my mantra. I also thought about Dean Karnazes. For some reason his line "sometimes you're the fish, sometimes you're the fisherman" kept running through my head, even when it didn't fit the situation. It all worked for me.
I came into the 4th aid station at 37-38km feeling strong physically and mentally. It was a great surprise when I popped out of the woods and saw Anna and Jannine's daughters, Laura and Jade, and Jannine's dad there cheering us on. It was a great pick me up. There was another timing mat at this point and although my overall pace had slowed down, my placement had moved up to 54 overall (a 9 place improvement) and 18 for gender (a 4 place improvement).
As I was coming in Tiff was leaving. She wasn't feeling great and mentioned she was power walking, but let me tell you that tiny lady is a crazy fast power walker. I refilled my water again and ate more chips. The salt tasted great. I overheard someone say that we had finished the worst part and I asked race volunteers if that was true. One kind volunteer told me that "shitty" parts were coming up. I asked him his definition of shitty and he said it was going to get extremely technical with rocks and roots. He was not lying! Although my trail experience is admittedly limited, I have never seen trail like this. The first couple kilometers out of the aid station were very steep, but not yet technical. About 43km in I was starting to feel the effects of the race and turned on my ipod for the first time. I quickly had to hit shuffle since the first song to come on was Elton John's "I Guess That's Why They Call it The Blues". I definitely wasn't feeling that! Thank goodness for a little Cake - it always gets me running.
From about 40-52km the trail was a crazy, technical mess. There were parts where I was literally using my hands to crawl up a root mass or to get up the trail. This section forced me to pocket the camera because I was truly afraid that I was going to face plant. Shockingly, I did not fall. The thought I kept having as I timidly navigated this area was that I would love to just sit in the woods and watch as the front runners come through just to see how they run it. At this point I can't even imagine how to run on terrain like that. When I get back to the states I'm definitely volunteering at some ultras to see how it's done.
Although I did not fall, I did slip down a loose gravel edge once, but nothing major. I don't remember exactly, but maybe from about 45km or so we were back to running beside another gorgeous, crystal clear lake. Unfortunately, I couldn't take my eyes off the trail for long to take in the beauty.
Somewhere in here is where I really started to hurt - my quads, a weird place in my right shin that has never had problems, and the insides of both my knees - maybe my bursas. When the pain came I still thought of Dean's book "Run!" where he talks about how hard the runs can be and how you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone. From 45km on my mantra became "it's not supposed to feel good". Even though it's not overly positive, that mantra really worked for me.
I don't want to make it sound like it was all sunshine and roses. There were some definite low points. Around 50K I teared up and started thinking this is so hard, but I quickly told myself to suck it up and got over it. Somewhere in this section I passed Steph, a very strong runner from our group who was having some major IT band problems.
The next to last aid station was at about 54km. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven because there was cold watermelon. Not only did watermelon sound good because I was racing, but the watermelons on Okinawa are well over twenty bucks so this was a real treat. I didn't stay long at this station because I knew the end was so close. As I was going out, Kathleen was coming in and she begged the volunteers to "please tell me the rest of the course is flat as a pancake". Apparently they don't have pancakes in NZ because those liars said it was downhill. There were still plenty of steep inclines and some very cruel sets of steep stairs.
Luckily, the scenery made up for it. We were running by a strong flowing river that opened on to beautiful waterfalls.
The views really were stunning, but I was trying to push the last 5K and give my full effort. At the aid station around 47km I had taken an endurotab (basically electrolytes). I don't know if it finally kicked in or if I just knew the end was near, but I really picked it up the last 5km.
Right around the 55km point my breath was taken away yet again. This time it wasn't a steep incline, but a wallaby jumping across my path that did it. I just stopped and watched the speedy marsupial hop away. It was incredible.
Just after the wallaby I came across Tiff power walking her way through the pain. I'm telling you - one speedy little lady. I told her she could do it and she tucked in right behind me until the end. This is always how we run. One of us will lead, the other will follow. The leader just all depends on the day.
Within the last 2km racers are treated to the incredible Tarawera Falls. They were amazing, but I didn't have time to dilly dally.
After the falls I was still trying to push hard because I was ready to be done! I thought I had about a kilometer to go so I was pleasantly surprised when I popped out of the woods and saw the finish line! I was even happier to see Jannine's dad there waiting for us and cheering us in! It was great to see a familiar face. Here's Tiff, Kathleen, and I at the finish:
From the 38K mark until the end I moved up another 9 spaces (54 to 45) and 2 more gender spots (18 to 16) and had a finish time of 10:25. Our WOOT runners who are 3:30 marathoners finished around 8:30. It was one heck of a course.
I am extremely happy with my effort and feel like I did all I could on the day. I clearly need to train more for climbs. After a few days of hobbling around with sore quads I was back to normal and went for a couple easy runs within 5 days of the race. Tiff had these great necklaces made for us to remember Tarawera.
I'm pretty sure this is an experience I'll never forget.